How to avoid vehicle breakdowns this winter

If you are concerned about your car breaking down this winter then there are some helpful steps that you can take to keep your car in tip-top shape.

Caroline Ramsey 17 November 2020

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If you are concerned about your car breaking down this winter then there are some helpful steps that you can take to keep your car in tip-top shape.

What causes car breakdowns in winter?

Some of the main causes of car breakdowns during winter range from flat tyres to car battery problems; these can often be prevented through taking precautionary measures like regularly servicing your car and performing routine maintenance checks. Other typical causes for winter breakdowns are:

Car not starting

During the winter months, the cold weather can start to affect the ability for your car to start and 18 per cent of breakdowns are caused by this problem. One way that you can reduce the chances of this happening to you is to regularly check your battery, as this tends to be the most common cause behind a car not starting. You should also have some jump lead cables kept in your car so that you can get help from another road user or your breakdown cover provider.

Car engine cutting out

There are a number of reasons for a car’s engine to start cutting out and this is 27 per cent more likely to happen during the winter months, causing your car to break down. The most common reason for this to happen is that there isn’t enough fuel in the tank or the air filter or the EGR valve needs a clean.

Other reasons why a car’s engine cuts out are:

  • Defective idle air actuator – the idle air actuator is the part which controls the car’s engines RPMs when it’s idling.
  • Corroded or loose wires – sometimes the car can stall due to the ignition inconsistently firing because of a wiring issue in the wiring harness.
  • Faulty mass flow or oxygen sensors – these sensors monitor and regulate the amount of oxygen that enters the car’s fuel stream.
  • Broken fuel pump, low fuel pressure – the fuel pump is the car part which transfers fuel from the tank into the car’s engine.
  • Dirty or damaged fuel injectors – the fuel injectors squirt the right amount of fuel near the car’s spark plugs so that it can be ignited at the right time.
  • Transmission failure – most commonly in automatic cars, the torque converter can become damaged or run out of fluid which prevents the converter from doing its job.

Flat tyres

During winter the conditions of the roads deteriorate due to water seeping into cracks on the road surface, which can expand when it freezes overnight, causing even larger cracks eventually leading to potholes. When driving in poor visibility during the winter it’s easy to miss potholes in the roads, causing your car’s tyres to wear down more rapidly and in some extreme cases to blow out completely.

If you’re driving on roads with potholes, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your tyre pressure and tread, to prevent them from getting flat or even blowing out. Up to 36 per cent of all winter breakdowns are caused by flat tyres, so be careful when driving near curbs, potholes and other bumps and debris in the roads to prevent your tyres losing their precious pressure.

Car battery problems

Winter is prime time for car battery problems with a whopping 51 per cent of all car breakdowns being caused for this reason. Because of this, regularly checking your car battery should be a major part of your winter driving routine. The cold weather can reduce the output and using your lights a lot more during the shorter days can also take its toll on the battery.

How can you prevent a car break down in winter?

You can help to prevent your car from breaking down in winter by making sure you top up any coolant or windscreen wiper fluid with antifreeze, regularly testing your battery and tyres and making sure your car has been regularly serviced.

Regularly service your car

It may sound obvious, but ensuring that your car is regularly serviced will decrease the chances of your car breaking down in the winter. Double check your car’s service book to so that you can stay on top of your car’s servicing requirements.

Keep an eye on your tyres

As the cold weather sets in, the general conditions of the road surfaces can start to decline and with that, so can your tyres. Make sure that you regularly top up the air in your tyres and maintain that the treads aren’t worn down past the limit. If necessary, you may want to think about getting new tyres fitted such as specialised winter or snow tyres, to help you drive a little safer this winter.

Don’t forget the antifreeze

Many people forget to top up their engine coolant with antifreeze when they top up the radiator in their car. The ratio of engine coolant should always be 50 per cent water and 50 per cent antifreeze, however, many people forget this when they are topping up during the warmer months, causing the levels of antifreeze to become severely diluted.

This means that the radiator fluid will freeze during winter which causes the car engine to overheat and ultimately break down.

Test your car’s battery

The top cause for your car to break down during winter is usually a problem with the car battery. Most car batteries are designed to last around five years, however; sometimes they may need to be replaced sooner due to them being faulty or having run down faster than usual, especially if you do a lot of driving.

Windscreen D.I.Y SOS

Repairing any cracks in your windscreen will help to prevent them from getting any worse as the cold and wet weather sets in. Don’t forget to also look for any cracks in the windscreen’s bodywork because salt on the roads can severely corrode this area of your car.

It’s also worth checking that your windscreen wiper fluid has got antifreeze and give your wipers a going over for any nicks or tears in the rubber blades.

Check your lights

As you know, you will be using your headlights a lot more during the darker winter days so it’s a good idea to check that your lights, rear reflectors and indicators are all working correctly. Make sure that you replace any broken bulbs as soon as possible in order to maintain road safety for yourself and other road users.

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